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We just hit the reset button — on the calendar, but not the atmosphere. The start of a new year brings new numbers and statistics for weather and climate. It’s purely a mathematical change, almost like a fiscal year, since there’s got to be a way to categorize and compare past weather with current conditions and future projections.
My outlook for 2020 is some days cool, others hot, some will be stormy, but most will be not. In other words, I foresee the usual variety of weather and that includes likely records for heat, cold and rain. I expect long periods of no change, bookended by times of extreme conditions. There will be weather things that come as a surprise. I can’t tell you what they are yet because they are a surprise. Simply put, we are starting with a blank slate and there’s no way to be specific or certain about weather that has not yet begun. That’s outside of my field of vision.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center does look deeper into the future. NOAA has the Southeastern U.S. a little warmer than average, with typical amounts of rain, through March. These outlooks are useful for agriculture, but they are often confused with forecasts. An outlook for “warmer than average” doesn’t mean we won’t have cold snaps and freezes. It means the average of the weeks’ daytime highs and nighttime lows is projected to be above typical. It is still winter, the time of year when the days are short and the sun is low in the sky.
You might remember, from Earth science class, that even though this is the coldest season for the northern hemisphere, it’s actually the time of year when Earth is closest to the sun, our nearest star. We are only 91 million miles away from it on Jan. 5. That’s called perihelion. In early July, we will be over 94 million miles away. That’s aphelion. The Earth’s orbit around the sun is a little lopsided.
Impress your friends with that astronomy trivia, which tells us it’s the sun’s angle and the length of the day that control the seasons, not the changing distance between the Earth and sun. Minute by minute, we are now gaining sunlight each day, as the sun climbs a bit higher in the sky. Before you know it, you’ll be sneezing from pollen. Humidity will rise along with temperatures and we’ll find a lot more cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds rather than the altocumulus and cirrus clouds that are typical of Gulf Coast winter.
Wish for agreeable weather conditions this year but know that the cycle of calm to stormy will always continue. I wish you and your family peace, love, prosperity, health and good sky-watching in 2020. Be safe when bad weather arrives. When thunder roars, go indoors. Turn around, don’t drown. Give yourself a little TLC. Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to.
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